Less than an hour before first pitch of Sunday's series finale against the Pirates, the Giants scratched first baseman Brandon Belt from their starting lineup with left side tightness.
Darin Ruf started at first in Belt’s place, as the club optioned LaMonte Wade Jr. to Triple-A Sacramento before the game to clear a roster spot for left fielder Alex Dickerson, who was activated from the injured list after missing eight games with a right shoulder impingement.
Belt, 33, has been bothered by the side issue for over a week, which prompted an early exit against the Rangers on Tuesday and also led to his removal from the lineup on Thursday. Belt also didn’t start against Pirates left-hander Tyler Anderson on Saturday, but he made a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 8-6 walk-off loss at PNC Park.
“It’s still something that he’s going to be dealing with until he’s completely over the hump,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Sunday morning. “Last night, he came out feeling strong. Not perfect, but ready to start for us.”
That clearly changed as Belt progressed through his pregame warmup routine. Despite Belt’s lingering injury issue, the Giants recouped two other key left-handed bats in Dickerson and right fielder Mike Yastrzemski, who returned to action on Sunday after missing one game due to soreness that resulted from his crash into the right-field wall on Friday night. Dickerson opened the scoring on Sunday with an RBI fielder's choice in the first inning.
Dickerson and Yastrzemski’s return enabled Kapler to start an all left-handed-hitting outfield against Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller. Mike Tauchman started in center field, with Steven Duggar also available off the bench on Sunday.
Kapler said the Giants decided to send down Wade because they felt Duggar had earned an opportunity to stay in the Majors after going 8-for-26 (.308) with a double, a triple, a home run and four RBIs over his previous 10 games. Duggar is also the club’s best defensive option in center field, where he made an impressive diving play that had only a 15% catch probability on Friday.
“Duggar’s done a really nice job for us and has earned the opportunity to stay on the roster,” Kapler said. “That’s the simplest way I can explain it.”
Even after optioning Wade, the Giants are still carrying seven players who are listed as outfielders on their 26-man roster. They could whittle the group further once second baseman Donovan Solano is ready to come off the IL. Solano, who has been out since April 22 with a right calf strain, went 3-for-3 in his first rehab game with Sacramento on Saturday and is scheduled to play seven innings at second base on Monday.
“We’ll build him up and get him ready to join us as soon as possible,” Kapler said.